There were quick fixes that could have lessened looting, says KZN violence monitor
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Durban - There were quick and plausible fixes available that could have lessened the impact of the looting, loss of lives, jobs and widespread damage to property and infrastructure that brought KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng to its knees, but were ignored by government and police.
Mary de Haas, KZN violence monitor and social scientist, believes road blocks and the quicker deployment of the army was the way to go.
“They waited too long. I'm not a spook, just an analyst, but you could see the threats from a distance, given the amount of disgruntled politicians around this province, especially,” said De Haas.
She also questioned the efforts of private security companies hired to protect malls.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his address to the nation on Friday, admitted that the government had dropped the ball in their handling of the anarchy that broke out over a few days this week.
The damage is expected to run into billions of rand, stemming from the 118 incidents of public violence, arson, looting and other forms of unrest that police have recorded.
This accounts for the looting and damage done at 161 malls and shopping centres, 11 warehouses, eight factories and 161 liquor outlets and distributors, excluding the destruction to roads and other infrastructure.
“As this government, we must acknowledge that we were poorly prepared for an orchestrated campaign of public violence, destruction and sabotage of this nature.
“While we commend the brave actions of our security forces on the ground, we must admit that we did not have the capabilities and plans in place to respond swiftly and decisively,” said Ramaphosa.
De Haas said at the first rumblings of violence, the government should have had the army on standby and ready for deployment.
“We have a military base on the North coast, they should have been deployed to clear the roads and protect businesses.
“They should have also immediately set-up roadblocks to search motorists and their vehicles for weapons and ammunition. There is a lot of ammunition out there,” maintained De Haas.
“It is not a human rights infringement to be stopped at a roadblock, and it would have been easy to run.
“I don’t know why it was not done. Given what it could have yielded, roadblocks are never a waste of time,” she said.
De Haas said it is uncertain whether there was any haggling between police and the ministry over policy implementation.
“All the political and other interference in policing, especially in KZN, does not help. This is a multi-layered problem,” she said.
Another aspect of concern for De Haas was the failings of private security companies.
“Why was it allowed to happen, what were the security companies reactions? Did they not report attacks to police, take pictures or number plates of vehicles involved,” asked De Haas.
Mall and property owners, who have policies with Sasria SOC LTD, the only non-life insurer in the country, providing special risk cover to individuals and business assets, have been assured by the insurer that looting damages and losses are valid claims.
Cedric Masondo, Sasria’s managing director, confirmed their stance during a TV interview.
He said they covered riots, whether it was political or civil commotion, labour strikes and terrorism.
“The looting falls under civil commotion. There are no debates about that, claims will be paid according to loss covers,” he said.
Masondo said they anticipated paying claims anywhere between R3.5 billion to R7bn.
Ramaphosa assured that the government would identify and act against those who “lit the flame, and those who spread it”.
“We will find those who instigated this violence. They will be held accountable for their deeds. We will not allow anyone to destabilise our country and get away with it,” promised Ramaphosa.
By Friday, over 2 550 people had been arrested, and special arrangements are being put in place to ensure that these cases are prioritised, he added.
Advocate Elaine Zungu, the director of public prosecutions in KZN said: “Due to the violent protest action, the operations at courts have been hampered.
“Cases pertaining to public violence are being brought to court for first appearance. Cases are being enrolled where there is evidence linking the arrested person to the commission of the offences. Bail is considered bearing in mind the legislation applicable to bail. The charges are determined by the evidence contained in the docket. Each and every case is determined on its merits.”